The all-time hardest climbs of the France (1903-2022)
Photos clockwise from top left:
#1 Col de la Loze (Meribel); #2 Col de Portet; #3 Mont Ventoux (Bedoin);
#4 Col du Madeleine (La Chambre); and #5 Col de la Croix de Fer (Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne).
Also visit our 2022 Tour de France and Highest Climbs in TdF History pages.
We use the the Fiets Index for ranking climbs. This is an objective formula that takes into account distance traveled, elevation gained, and altitude encountered, creating a numeric figure for each climb, which is then used to rank a climb in relation to others in a given group - here, Top 10 All Time Climbs of the Tour de France.
#1: COL DE LA LOZE
The most difficult bike climb to ever appear in the Tour de France.
Cycling the hardest bike climb in France
Ride 22 kilometers gaining 1690 meters at 7.7% average grade.
Col de la Loze - PJAMM Profile Tool
This magnificent climb is located in the heart of French Ski Country, in the Graian Alps subrange of the French Alps, and was opened exclusively to cyclists in the summer of 2018. Col de la Loze is one of the best cycling experiences in Europe, since its last six kilometers are on a winter ski run, which, during the off season, is dedicated exclusively to cyclists. Col de la Loze is ranked the hardest bike climb in France.
On July 15, 2020, Stage 17 (Grenoble - Col de La Loze) the Tour de France featured this mountain climb for the first time. Christian Prudhomme’s Comments:
“Only a great champion will be able to win at the Col de la Loze! The stage profile invites the favourites of the Tour to be audacious. They don’t yet know the road that will take them on that day to the Col de la Madeleine and have no idea of what to expect once in the resort of Méribel. They’ll still have an extra 7 irregular kilometres to climb with several passages at over 20%” (LeTour.fr).
The stage was won by Miguel Ángel López (COL; overall #6 that year) in spite of strong efforts by overall winner
Tadej Pogačar and another GC favorite, Primož Roglič.
#2: COL DE PORTET
Second hardest climb ever featured in the Tour de France
Cycling Col de Portet
Ride 16.3 kilometers gaining 1405 meters at 8.6% average grade.
Col de Portet - PJAMM Profile Tool
This is the only Top 10 French or TdF climb located in the Pyrenees. The climb is ranked in the World 150, and rightly so. We ride 16.4 km, gaining 1599 meters to an elevation of 2209 meters, at a challenging 8.6% average grade. Along a one kilometer stretch after the giant hairpin at kilometer 1.5 there is a sheer cliff to our left (above photo group, top right). Terrifying . . . at least to me!
The Tour was here . .
Col de Portet was first included in the Tour de France as the Stage 17 finish on July 25, 2018. While the stage was a very short 65 kilometers, 38 kilometers of that was uphill. The stage began in Bagnères-de-Luchon and first climbed col de Peyresourde, then Col de Val Louron-Azet, before reaching the much more challenging Col de Portet. On July 25, Nairo Quintana broke away early on Col de Portet and won the stage. On this day Chris Froome would lose more time (+1.35 v. .52) to Geraint Thomas, the ultimate winner of the 2018 Tour de France.
Col de Portet was featured in the Tour a second time in 2021 on the hardest stage of that tour - primarily because of Col de Portet. Stage 17 was won by then leader and ultimate winner of the TdF, Tadej Pogacar, with a strong climb on the brutally steep mountain.
#3: MONT VENTOUX, BEDOIN
Third hardest all-time climb of the Tour de France and most famous of the Top 10
Ride 21.5 kilometers gaining 1615 meters at 7.5% average grade.
Mont Ventoux (Bedoin) - PJAMM Profile Tool
One of the “Big Four” in our estimation, Mont Ventoux is on the same world renowned footing as Alpe d’Huez (although no climbs can match the fame of Alpe d’Huez), Tourmalet, and Stelvio. The traditional route up Mont Ventoux from Bédoin is extremely challenging (ranked #143 globally), scenic, and quite unique in the upper third of the climb with its barren limestone mountains looking more like desert than alps.
Well, they don’t call it the Bald Mountain for nothing . . .
One of the features of cycling Mont Ventoux that separates it from many of the other exceptional French and European climbs is that its unique radio tower at the top is visible throughout the climb. At times it seems this tower just refuses to grow any bigger no matter how fast we pedal! SportActive.net explains that this distinctive red and white building, resembling a lighthouse, was built in 1968 and is used as a meteorological station as well as to broadcast television signals.
Iconic radio tower atop Venoux is visible as we ascend the mountain.
The Tour de France has included Mont Ventoux in 18 stages from 1951 through 2022, and it has been the finish on 11 of those, most recently in 2016. “Mont Ventoux has become legendary as the scene of one of the most grueling climbs in the Tour de France bicycle race...Its fame as a scene of great Tour dramas has made it a magnet for cyclists around the world” (Mont Ventoux).
Charly Gaul Stage 18 1958
Photo: Cycling Passion, Charly Gaul on Mont Ventoux Tour de France 1958.
#4: COL DE LA MADELEINE SOUTH
19 kilometers with 1480 meters at 8%.
Ride 18.8 kilometers gaining 1,477 meters to 1,957 meters at 8% average grade.
Col de la Madeleine (La Chambre) - PJAMM Profile Tool
Col de la Madeleine South has been included in the Tour de France 29 times between 1969 and 2022. This climb is a tale of two routes -- the southern approach of Col de Madeleine is very strenuous and a Top 200 World Climb, while the northern route is less difficult but extraordinarily beautiful. Although each is a little more of one than the other, both climbs are considered challenging and beautiful. If you find yourself in the French Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Region, and certainly in the Savoie Department of eastern France, this is simply a must-do set of climbs. However, it is the southern approach which is ranked as the fourth toughest bicycle climb in France.
Col de Madeleine from La Chambre (south).
Col de Madeleine is one of the many exceptional HC climbs in the Saint Jean-de-Maurienne area (in our opinion one of the greatest climbing areas in the world -- Col du Galibier, Col du Télégraphe, Col de L’Iseran, Col de Glandon, Alpe d’Huez). Add that it has been featured in the Tour de France 29 times from 1969 (admittedly late on the scene) through 2022, and you have a true bucket list extraordinary climb!
Two cafes at the top.
#5: COL DE LA CROIX DE FER NORTH
Cycle 23 kilometers gaining 1610 meters at 7% average grade.
Col de la Croix de Fer - PJAMM Profile Tool
This is a wonderful and scenic climb near St Jean-de-Maurienne. There are three routes to the Col de la Croix de Fer (meaning “Pass of the Cross”), but it is the northern approach that is by far the most difficult of the three. The climb is often featured in, and thus made famous by, the Tour de France (21 appearances from 1947 through 2022).
The northern approach to Croix de Fer overlaps the entirety of Col du Glandon East, which is 12.1 miles and 5,000’ (Croix de Fer continues on another 1.8 miles/492’/5.3% from Col du Glandon to its summit).
#6: COL DU GRANON
Cycle 11.4 kilometers, with 1100 meters at 9.7%.
Col du Granon - PJAMM Profile Tool
Before 2022, Col du Granon had been featured in the Tour de France only once, but wow, did it make a splash in 1986! It was on the Col du Granon that Greg Lemond worked with Swiss rider Urs Zimmermann to open a gap on his teammate, Bernard Hinault, and wrest the yellow jersey from him by finishing 3:21 ahead of Hinault. As we know, LeMond never gave the jersey up after that, and that year became the first American to win the Tour de France.
Granon returns to the TdF 2022 Stage 11 finish.
Cafe at the top.
#7: COLS DU TÉLÉGRAPHE & GALIBIER
Cycle 35 kilometers, with 2075 meters at 5.5%.
Cols du Télégraphe & Galibier - PJAMM Profile Tool
We stitched together two of France’s most famous climbs to create France #7. We believe this is fair because there is only a 160 meter descent between Col du Télégraphe and the beginning of Col du Galibier, and that minimal descent is made up for in the first 2.5 kilometers of the Galibier climb -- leaving another 15.5 kilometers Cols du Télégraphe & Galibier and 1090 meters of climbing after that to the Col du Galibier.
Col du Galibier is part of the Route des Grandes Alpes, a tourist itinerary that begins in Thonon-les-Bains and travels over many of the most spectacular passes in France and Europe, which also includes Cols de L’Iseran, d’Izoard, and Bonette; the alternate route includes Croix de Fer and Madeleine.
Col du Galibier has been Included 63 times in the TdF since first appearing in 1911 (fifth most of all-time). On 50 of those appearances, Galibier was also the highest point reached during the tour (2642m). Col du Télégraphe has been in 31 Tours through 2022.
Emile Georget, Col du Galibier, 1911.
Photo: Emile Georget
#8: CIME DE LA BONETTE
Cycling Cime de la Bonette from Jausiers.
Ride 24 kilometers gaining 1,580 meters at 6.4% average grade.
Cime de la Bonette - PJAMM Profile Tool
Cime de La Bonnette has been featured four times in the Tour de France as of 2022, and has always been the highest point on the Tour when it is featured. That is because it is the highest point the Tour has ever gone!
© Climb name
Times highest point of TdF (as of 2022)
Times Featured in Tour de France
Cima de la Bonette
Col de l'Iseran
Col du Galibier
Col du Granon
Top five high points of the Tour de France.
Also see Top 10 Highest Points of the TdF
#9: COL DU GLANDON EAST
#9 on the Tour de France Top 10 list.
Cycle 19.6 kilometers, 1530 meters at 7.4%.
Col du Glandon - PJAMM Profile Tool
Col du Glandon from the east and west overlap with Col de la Croix de Fer. Croix de Fer West overlaps Glandon West entirely and then climbs another 2.7 kilometers and 151 meters to its col. Croix de Fer North overlaps Glandon East entirely and then climbs 2.7 km and 151 meters to the Croix de Fer col. A map of the Glandon and Croix de Fer ascents is located here.
Through 2022, Col du Glandon has been included in the Tour de France 14 times since it was first introduced in 1947. After 1947, Glandon was not included until 1977, and has been included sparingly thereafter (averaging once about every four years, 13 times in the 43 years). The Glandon climbs are in the Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne climbing zone.
#10: COL DE LA LOMBARDE
#10 on the all-time TdF climb list
Cycle 19.9 kilometersgaining 1419 meters at 7.1% average grade.
Col de la Lombarde - PJAMM Cycling Profile
It’s surprising that this beautiful and challenging climb has only been included in one Tour de France (2008). It is #10 on the all-time difficulty list and is the seventh highest point the Tour has ever reached.
 Note that officially the TdF has featured Ventoux 16, not 17 times. This discrepancy is the result of Lance Armstrong being stripped of all TdF conquests, the 2012 TdF is removed from the books, including Mont Ventoux’s Stage 13 which was won by David Millar of Great Britain.